Sweet and Sour Sauce

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Sweet and sour sauce is a staple Chinese condiment. It’s vibrant-red, clear, gel-like, and glossy. This homemade version is a restaurant-quality sauce that’s incredibly tasty. We make ours without ketchup in just 8 minutes.

📌 Pin Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce

Chinese sweet and sour sauce served in a clear glass bowl alongside crispy wonton strips.

Sweet and sour sauce is an ideal dipping sauce for cream cheese wontons, buffalo chicken wontons, crab rangoon, chicken meatballs, pan-fried cocktail sausages, chicken wings and chicken tenders.

Use this recipe as a glaze for your favorite chicken, seafood and pork recipes that call for Chinese sweet and sour sauce. It’s also a delicious glaze for pork chops and holiday ham! Just smear it on, and serve more on the side.

🛒 Ingredients

Made with common pantry ingredients, this easy recipe comes together quickly! You’ll be amazed at it’s restaurant-quality taste.

Here’s what you’ll need to assemble this staple Chinese condiment:

  • Granulated Sugar: Provides the perfect amount of sweetness.
  • Corn Starch: Thickens the mixture and provides a glossy sheen.
  • Salt: This seasoning enhances the flavor of the other ingredients.
  • Water: Is an important liquid for the sauce.
  • Rice Vinegar: Is a staple of Asian cooking. The acidity balances the flavors in this sweet and sour sauce.
  • Shaoxing Wine: Adds depth of flavor and complexity for the sauce.
  • Soy Sauce: Gives Asian dishes a deep umami flavor.
  • Red Food Coloring: Provides the traditional deep red color we come to expect from sweet and sour sauce.
Ingredients for Chinese sweet and sour sauce recipe laid out on a maple Boos Board.

📖 Recipe Steps

This is a simple recipe you’ll want to make again and again! The entire process takes about 8 minutes. Here’s how to make the best Chinese sweet and sour sauce, step by step.

  1. Add sugar, corn starch and salt to a small pot. Whisk to combine and remove lumps.
  2. Add water, rice vinegar, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and red food coloring to the pot. 
  3. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Place pot over medium heat. Continuously whisk until mixture comes to a boil. The sauce should be thick, smooth and clear. Remove from heat. If the desired consistency has not yet been reached, continue to stir the mixture in the hot pan after the heat has been turned off. If the thickened sauce is boiled for too long, it will break (lose its ability to emulsify) and become thin! Immediately transfer sweet and sour sauce to a small bowl.
4-image collage showing how to make sweet and sour sauce, step by step.

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert Tips

Are you missing an ingredient for this recipe? Before running to the market, check your pantry for some easy ingredient swaps!

  • Best Substitute for Granulated Sugar: An equal amount of light brown sugar.
  • Best Swaps for Corn Starch: Arrowroot, potato starch or tapioca starch. Do not use flour for this recipe.
  • Best Substitutes for Rice Vinegar: White vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
  • Best Substutitue for Shaoxing Wine: Pale dry sherry, or cooking sake (Japanese rice wine).

🧑🏼‍🍳 Recipe FAQs

To make sweet and sour sauce gluten-free, use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari instead of traditional soy sauce. Additionally, ensure that any other ingredients you use, such as vinegar and sweeteners, are also gluten-free.

Yes, you can use various types of vinegar such as rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white vinegar. However, rice vinegar is typically preferred for its milder flavor that complements the sweetness of the sauce.

Yes, you can make sweet and sour sauce without cornstarch. However, cornstarch is commonly used to thicken the sauce. If you prefer not to use cornstarch, you can try alternatives such as arrowroot powder or tapioca starch for thickening.

Yes, you can add heat to your sweet and sour sauce by incorporating ingredients like chili flakes, sriracha sauce, or diced chili peppers. Adjust the amount to your desired level of spiciness, tasting as you go to ensure it’s not too overwhelming.

To achieve a glossy and shiny finish, make sure to dissolve the sugar completely in the sauce and cook it until it thickens to the desired consistency. But be careful not to overcook, as the cornstarch in the sauce can dull the sauce’s shine if overcooked. You can also add a small amount of oil, such as sesame oil, towards the end of cooking to enhance the shine.

Yes, you can store homemade sweet and sour sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. It may thicken slightly upon cooling, but you can reheat it gently on the stove or in the microwave and stir well before serving.

Yes, you can freeze homemade sweet and sour sauce. Allow it to cool completely before transferring it to freezer-safe containers or bags. Leave some room for expansion, then seal tightly and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating and serving.

Sweet and Sour Sauce in a small clear-glass bowl with a tiny gold spoon.

🥡🥢 More Takeout Recipes

If you love Chinese sweet and sour sauce, you’ll enjoy these Asian-inspired recipes. Print out your favorites or pin them to Pinterest.

Rate This Recipe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Discerning taste testers says this homemade recipe is better than packets of sweet and sour sauce that come with Chinese take-out! If you agree, give this recipe a 5-star rating in the comments below. Then share it with a friend. 📌 Pin it to Pinterest.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com
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Chinese sweet and sour sauce served in a clear glass bowl alongside crispy wonton strips.

Sweet and Sour Sauce


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5 from 8 reviews

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Description

This Chinese sweet and sour sauce recipe takes only 8 minutes to make! Enjoy this delicious Asian condiment as a dipping sauce or glaze. It’s a family favorite!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3 drops red food coloring

Instructions

  1. Add sugar, corn starch and salt to a small pot. Whisk to combine and remove lumps. Add water, rice vinegar, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and red food coloring to the pot. Whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Place pot over medium heat. Continuously whisk until mixture comes to a boil. The sauce should be thick, smooth and clear. Remove from heat. If the desired consistency has not yet been reached, continue to stir the mixture in the hot pan after the heat has been turned off. If the thickened sauce is boiled for too long, it will break (lose its ability to emulsify) and become thin!
  3. Immediately transfer sweet and sour sauce from the hot pot to a small bowl.

Notes

How to store sweet and sour sauce: Store it in an airtight jar and refrigerate for up to 1 week. When the sauce is cold the texture will thicken like Jello. To thin it back out again, gently whisk it with a bit of Shaoxing wine, rice vinegar or water in a saucepan over low heat.

  • Prep Time: 3 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 Minutes
  • Category: Condiment
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Chinese, Asian
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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Are you craving Chinese take-out and the condiments that come with it? Are you excited to make this homemade recipe? Share your thoughts on this sweet and sour sauce recipe in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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9 Comments

  1. I had no idea sweet and sour sauce was so easy to make! This was perfect with our crispy pork. Great recipe!






  2. I’ve been trying not to order takeout, so this recipe is perfect! Thanks so much for sharing it!






  3. In all honesty I judge a Chinese food restaurant based on their sweet and sour sauce. This looks perfect to me. I cannot wait to make this for my family.